AU. When Sirius and Remus go looking for Peter Pettigrew, they make a wrong turn and someone else finds him first. Eight years later, Sirius owns a book store and Remus manages it for him. When Harry stumbles into the store and they find out the truth, they decide it's time to be Stealing Harry. (SB/RL slash relationship in later chapters.)
Remus didn't have a floo hookup in his flat; there was one in Sandust, in the back, and it was dangerous for him to have one at home -- occasionally he was required to lock himself in the flat for the full moon, and he never knew what might happen. So Sirius ended up at Sandust again, engaged in a negotiation-by-floo with Molly Weasley, who was understandably nervous about having Harry Potter in her informal little school. Still, Sirius was willing to pay -- Sirius had plenty of money to pay, especially after his mother's death -- and Molly had a soft heart for a little boy who'd spent his whole life among Muggles.
Remus, meanwhile, was clearing out his office, moving the books into the living room, floating the desk awkwardly through the door, showing Harry where his own bed would be, and the dresser and bookshelf, and a desk if Harry wanted it, until Harry was entirely overwhelmed.
Crowded into the tiny dining room of Remus' flat, the three of them ate dinner, Harry quiet and exhausted, Sirius thoughtful, Remus worried.
"Where's Padfoot gone?" Harry asked finally. Sirius sighed quietly.
"I think we ought to tell him," he said, to Remus, who nodded.
"Tell me what?" Harry's voice was curious.
"Harry...you thought Padfoot was a magic dog," Remus said. "And we didn't want to show you too much magic at once, it's hard to get used to..."
"I knew it! Padfoot can talk!"
"Not exactly," Sirius said. "Harry...you have to keep it a secret."
Harry nodded. Sirius wiped his mouth, stood up, and looked to Remus, who nodded.
"Don't be scared," he said.
Remus, who had seen the Change before, watched Harry's face as Sirius' body twisted, warping slowly into the shape of the big black dog who'd caught Harry from falling the first day.
Padfoot hung his head, and looked up at Harry warily. Harry glanced at Remus.
"Sirius is Padfoot," Remus said, feeling that this was unnecessary, but doing it anyway. "And Padfoot is Sirius."
Harry looked at the dog again. Carefully, he picked up a sausage from his plate, and held it out. Padfoot took it, delicately, and swallowed it. Harry patted his head.
"My godfather's a dog," he said.
"Well, only once in a while."
"Was he a dog and you changed him into a human?" Harry asked.
"Is he a werewolf?"
Remus felt something tighten in his chest. "No," he managed. "He's an Animagus. He's a wizard who can turn into an animal."
"Oooh," Harry said. He patted Padfoot on the head. "You can go back now," he announced. A second later, Sirius was standing there, hands at his sides, looking expectant.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Harry," he said. Harry looked up at him.
"Good dog," he said. Sirius smiled warily. "I knew you were magic."
He hopped off his chair and went to the sink. "Pick me up?" he asked. Sirius lifted him and let him fill his glass again. "We need a stool," Harry mused.
"Harry, your godfather's a dog," Remus pointed out. Harry climbed back into his chair.
"I knew Padfoot was magic," he repeated, calmly. "Do you change into an animal?" he asked Remus, who choked on a piece of chicken and had to be thwacked on the back by Sirius.
"Remus isn't an Animagus," Sirius said, while Remus recovered from a close encounter of the poultry kind. "Listen, Harry, I've spoken with Molly Weasley -- she's Arthur's wife -- and she says she'd like to have you come to see her tomorrow."
"Mkay," Harry said, finishing his dinner. "Can I go read?"
Remus waved him off, and Harry ran into the living room. They could hear him flop onto the couch.
"I erm...reckon you'll be around again this evening?" Remus said, when he'd fully recovered. Sirius was pushing food around his plate.
"I'd like to stay. I can take the couch this time."
"I think Harry's happier when Padfoot's the one sharing the bed."
"Your couch is not fit for sleeping on," Sirius said sternly.
"Never stopped me before. Listen...what're you going to do? With the house on Privet Drive?"
"Well, reckon I could sell it...not that I want to move in if you think there's not room -- "
" -- no, it's not that at all -- "
" -- just, you know, there's no point to keeping the house, now that Harry's here," Sirius added.
"I mean, Harry's going to have my office and you and I could -- there's enough room in the bedroom for two beds..."
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "You sound like you've been thinking about this."
"Well, someone had to, didn't they?" Remus sipped his water. "Long as you don't mind sharing a room again."
"I suffered your snoring for seven years, I can probably get used to it again."
"My snoring!" Remus snorted. "What about your bloody sleepwalking?"
"That was ONCE, and I still say James hexed me."
"You can have a doggie basket," Remus said magnanimously. Sirius made a face. "Listen though...what about your things?"
"I'll sell the furniture, most of the stuff in the house isn't important anyhow."
"And..." Remus looked uncomfortable. "Well."
Sirius waited patiently.
"If Harry's here, you know...you can't be bringing women back here all the time," Remus blurted. "I mean it's bad enough when I show up to drop off a book and there's some unknown girl running about -- "
"It happens THREE TIMES and he never forgets -- "
"Well, imagine what Harry would think."
Sirius leaned back in his chair. "Fine. But in that case, you can't be bringing men home anymore either."
Remus blinked at him.
"I've known you for seventeen years, I'm not blind you know," Sirius said with a grin. "You think Padfoot never noticed those 'rare-book collectors' hanging about?"
Remus was still staring.
"Pity of Merlin, Remus, I don't care," Sirius said finally. "It was just a joke."
"Oh," Remus said finally. "Well, I never do anyway."
"No wonder you're so anxious all the time."
"Not funny, Sirius."
"It is from this chair," Sirius grinned. Remus shook his head, and smiled slightly.
"Pads and Harry can have the bed again tonight. You are going to get Harry his own bed and set up the rest while he's at school and I'm working, tomorrow."
"Sirius Black, Homemaker of the Year," Sirius answered, saluting.
"And for the love of God, if you bring that hideous painting in your living room to my flat, I will burn it," Remus added, as he set their plates in the sink. A brush on the counter leapt up and began to wash them, automatically. They heard a snort of childish laughter from the living room, and Sirius rose.
"If you'll excuse me," he said, with a dignified look, "I have a godson to read to."
"Books? Quill? Sirius gave you some parchment, didn't he?"
"Got all the candy Sirius kept slipping you?"
"You weren't s'posed to see that."
"I see everything, Harry."
"Well. Almost everything. You're to be polite to Molly, she's your teacher now."
"And no fighting with the others."
"What if they don't like me?"
"Harry, they're like you. They're special. They're wizarding children, same as you. Of course they'll like you."
"But what if they don't?"
"Well...give them some of Sirius' candy."
"Does that work?"
"Worked for Sirius when he was starting school. He gave your dad a fizzing whizzbee and they were friends for life."
"I got humbugs and a chocolate bar and some funny-lookin' jelly beans."
"You're armed and ready. You'll be fine. Go on now."
"Are they gonna laugh?"
"Even if I've got Frog in my bag?"
"I guarantee you, Harry, with a stuffed frog, you will be the envy of all the children."
Time passed, it seemed, at once quickly and slowly. They settled into a routine, hard to adjust to at first but, as with most routines, soon so familiar that they couldn't recall it being any other way. Remus and Sirius had their beds on opposite sides of what had been Remus' bedroom, with dressers between them, subtly dividing the living space; Harry had his room off the hallway, and sometimes Padfoot, if Harry was having a particularly anxious day, slept on the foot of Harry's bed. In the morning, Remus took Harry to Sandust, and saw him off, via floo, to The Burrow; in the afternoon Harry returned, by which time Sirius (or Padfoot) was there to watch over him as he studied in the bookshop, or played with the other children.
They never let him go very far, certainly not out of earshot, and Harry chafed, but he had been raised to be obedient and quiet. And besides, there were few places he could go that Padfoot couldn't follow.
He even saw Dudley, once, shopping with his mother in the market, but he hid behind Padfoot, and the big black dog growled so menacingly that several passers-by stopped to make sure Harry was all right.
Their lives had settled so quickly, and so surprisingly seamlessly, that Sirius was almost taken aback when Remus, bent over his meal, remarked quietly that it would be the full moon in two days. Sirius hadn't noticed the gaunt, drawn look that Remus always got a few days beforehand; Harry didn't know anything was wrong. Normally it was simple -- Remus would ask Sirius to dinner, and Sirius would realise that it was the full moon, and for two days and the full moon night he would stay at the flat, as Padfoot, to keep Remus company. It wasn't perfect -- the wolf often got restless -- but nobody got hurt, and Remus survived with his sanity intact.
"Wossat mean?" Harry asked, around a mouthful of mashed potatoes. He was still fascinated with magic, though he saw enough of it by now. "You gonna do a spell at the full moon?"
Remus looked uncomfortable. "No, not exactly. This is grownups business, Harry."
Harry looked sullen, and stabbed his roast beef viciously.
"Perhaps we ought to talk about it later," Sirius said pointedly, and Remus nodded. "Harry, how're you getting on at The Burrow?"
"Ron showed me how to get rid of gnomes," Harry muttered. "And Ginny pulled on my hair."
"Girls do that sometimes," Sirius agreed. "Having fun?"
Harry shrugged. "Guess so."
Remus sat back a little, kept out of it, as Sirius quizzed him about school, about his studies, about what he was reading from the bookstore. It was Sirius' job to do that; Sirius recommended the books he read, watched over his studies, tucked him in at night.
Remus, meanwhile, was going to have to find somewhere to go for the full moon, lest he turn into a slavering monster and try to eat his best friend's godson.
Somehow he felt this was vaguely unfair of the universe.
After dinner was done, and Harry'd washed and brushed his teeth and been put to bed to read, Sirius leaned in the doorway of the living room. Remus was working at his desk, checking the month's accounts for the bookshop.
"You should have told me sooner," he said quietly. Remus shook his head.
"Didn't think about it myself -- the whole Dursley affair put me off my schedule, having Harry here, all of it."
"We could send Harry to the Weasleys'."
"Not for two nights running -- you know how I get the night before the full moon, I might as well be a wolf anyway," Remus sighed. "I mean to say. What would they think? They're bound to ask questions." He put his head in his hands. "You ought to take Harry away," he said. "We can put wards on any other flat just as well as this one. Get your own place, you and him."
"Is that what you want?"
"Of course not. I want Harry here. Where I can watch him too. But what I want doesn't come into it. He's your godson, and you're not the one going feral every twenty-eight days."
Sirius considered this. "We couldn't ward another flat like this one. Not without your blood connection to James."
Remus let his head slide down onto the table, covering it with his hands. "Well, I've gone over my options. I was hoping you'd have some. I've just got the one."
"Sending Harry off?"
"No. But you've got keys and you know how the shop is run, you can look after Harry. I think I've got to go back to Hogsmeade."
Sirius flopped on the couch, confused. "What's in Hogsmeade?"
Remus lifted his head to look at him. Sirius' eyes widened.
"There is no way in hell you're going back to that pit, Moony," he said, urgently. "Not after all this time."
"It's the only safe way."
"You're not going back there!" Sirius insisted.
"Don't be ridiculous about it."
"I know what your transformations were like, I saw you afterwards," Sirius continued. "I didn't spend two years learning to be an Animagus just so you could go back to the Shrieking Shack and go through it all over again."
"Then come up with another option, Sirius, by all means." Remus spread his hands. "It's not like I want to go back to that. Merlin knows I don't."
Sirius could count the number of full moons that Remus had spent alone, after that first Animagus transformation, on one hand. Once when the tunnel had collapsed while they were still at school, and none of them but Remus could get to the Shack; once, after school was done, when Sirius had been in St. Mungo's with a vicious magical pneumonia; twice when he was traveling, in search of Peter, and couldn't make it back to Sirius and his flat in time. Four times in twelve years -- in over one hundred and fifty full moons.
"You can't, because there isn't," Remus said, calmly. "It's all right. Day after tomorrow I'll see Harry off to school and Apparate to Hogsmeade. I can take Dumbledore a peace offering, he's still furious with us...might even be a Quidditch game I could see."
"And then go lock yourself in a shack and try to rip your own skin off," Sirius growled.
"Better mine than Harry's," Remus replied evenly.
Harry didn't see why he couldn't go with Sirius to fetch Moony from wherever he'd gone. Moony'd been away for two days, and Harry missed him, which was odd, because Moony was quiet and never said much -- not like Sirius. Moony was like a dog himself, Harry decided; you didn't see him a whole lot when he was there, but when he wasn't, you missed his presence.
Instead, he stayed late at Mr. and Mrs. Weasleys' house, until Sirius came to get him. It wasn't so bad; Fred and George taught him how to pick locks, and Ron and he shared an apple, and Ginny spilled paint on him, which was always fun, as he got to watch Mrs. Weasley clean it magically.
When Sirius unlocked the door and swung it open, Harry dropped his book bag and immediately ran into the kitchen to find Moony; when he wasn't there, he pushed past Sirius and ran to the bedroom.
Sirius' hands caught him before he could get all the way to Moony's bed to jump up on it. Harry got only a glimpse of Moony, curled shirtless on the counterpane, but it was enough. There were large scratches along his ribcage, vicious open welts of a sort Harry had never encountered before. Moony was shaking, arms clutched around his body. There were scores on his face, too, and what looked like bitemarks on his hands.
"What's wrong with Moony?" he demanded loudly, as Sirius carried him away from the bedroom. He squirmed in Sirius' grip. "What happened to him? You didn't bite him, did you?"
"Shh, you'll wake him," Sirius answered, setting Harry down in his own bedroom, and closing the door. He crouched. Harry stomped his foot.
"Why's he hurt!" Harry shouted.
"Harry, it's a disease. There's nothing you can do by shouting. I didn't hurt Moony, all right?" Sirius said, his voice almost panicked. "It's okay. He's going to be fine. He'll be fine in the morning, you wait and see."
"He's all bitten and stuff!"
"It looks that way, I know, but I promise you, Harry, in the morning he'll be fine. Trust me, will you, kid?" Sirius pleaded. Harry scowled.
"Is he catching?" he asked, finally. Sirius shook his head.
"He's safe. He just got sick, that's all. Moony...he's going to get sick sometimes. He's not as strong as you and me."
Harry's eyes widened.
"So you just have to understand that sometimes you can't be with Moony, okay?"
Harry sat on his bed, and crossed his legs, looking thoughtful. Sirius stayed in his crouch, waiting for a sign of acceptance.
"Does he want Frog?" Harry asked, picking up the plush frog from a mostly-empty toy chest, and holding it out to Sirius.
"Does it hurt?"
"Only while it's...healing. It'll be fast. Usually doesn't...umm. Take more than a day."
"How much longer?"
"Another two, three hours. I think. Jesus Christ in stilettos..."
"You've been around Muggles too much, picking up their profanity like that."
"Ha bloody ha. Ow."
"Anything I can do?"
"Yes. Kill me."
"I told you it was a mistake."
"Oooh, or tell me what a fool I am, ta ever so, Pads."
"Harry saw, didn't he?"
"Just a glimpse. I told him it was a magic flu."
"I should have stayed in the Shack until I was healed fully. Shouldn't have let you Apparate me back. Next month. Next month."
"You can't do this, you're not thirteen anymore."
"I can do this. Argh."
"Sirius, go away and let me die in peace."
"I only came back to leave something off. Harry sent it."
"I'll bleed on it."
"We'll clean it. Take it."
"How stupid do I look?"
"Really stupid. You feel better?"